This is one of the most common issues we see. Many thyroid sufferers, usually Hypothyroid (low), have been on traditional medication for years and haven’t seen a difference. There are many ways to treat the thyroid beyond synthetic drugs like Synthroid.
Usually, a doctor gets a blood test for a hormone called TSH. This is a hormone from the pituitary gland that tells the thyroid what to do. If you have low thyroid hormone, the pituitary is supposed to increase the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) to tell the thyroid to put out more of the hormone.
Conversely, if the thyroid hormone is high, the pituitary is supposed to decrease the TSH, so the thyroid will be told to reduce its output. A more elevated TSH can mean lower thyroid, and a lower TSH can mean a higher thyroid. It’s backward.
The problem is, it’s much more complicated than that. The thyroid puts out two primary hormones, T3 and T4. T3 is the active hormone and does most of the work. T4 is just a storage molecule, and the body needs to turn it into T3 to do the excellent work it does.
You want plenty of T3, the helpful one. To make it more complicated, there is the Total T3, Total T4, and the amount free to do work, Free T3 and Free T4. Ultimately, we get the most help from Free T3.
Before civilization and exposure to numerous chemicals and metals, T4 would turn easily into T3 in a perfect world. This would be released as Free T3, and we would be fine. But, as we’ll explain, this isn’t usually the case today.
First, normal thyroid function is dependent on many minerals and nutritional cofactors, mainly Iodine, Zinc, and Selenium, among others. Studies show rampant deficiencies in these things. Especially in the United States, commercial farming is no longer adding minerals back to the soil as in traditional farming methods.
We are so deficient in Iodine. We use it to do a thyroid scan. If we had all the Iodine we needed, the thyroid would not take up any more when given to people. In medicine, we give Iodine to patients, let the thyroid take it up, and scan the thyroid for how well it does this.
We have a test, called a Thyroid Scan, to assess the thyroid, which wouldn’t work if we were not deficient. Did you know that Iodine used to be in flour and baked goods in the U.S.? Around the 1940s, it was removed and replaced by Bromine.
Converting T4 into the helpful T3 is dependent on many cofactors, which are usually deficient. Also, some things block this conversion. Chlorine in water, Fluoride in toothpaste and water, Bromine in baked goods, and hot tubs are all common inhibitors of the transformation.
These can make the good T3 turn back into T4 for storage. This can be tested by testing a Reverse T3. If this is elevated, these toxins must be decreased or eliminated, deficiencies must be fixed, and sometimes patients need extra T3.
This can be done using Liothyronine (Cytomel), synthetic T3, or Natural Thyroid Hormone, which has T3 and T4 together. We prefer the Natural Thyroid Hormone. This has both hormones and is cheaper.
As you can see, the thyroid gland can be a complicated subject. It may take advanced testing, fix deficiencies, decrease or eliminate exposure to toxins, and take Natural Thyroid Hormone or a combination of synthetic hormones to get it right. Ultimately, the patient should feel better.
Some studies show that taking Natural Thyroid Hormone, whether you need it or not, decreases heart disease and other problems. Not bad for an inexpensive hormone. Especially if it can make you feel better!
If you feel you may have Thyroid Problems or have taken Thyroid Medication for some time and haven’t seen the benefits, contact The Maine Center for Functional Medicine at (207) 941-0080 for a Consultation. We can get more aggressive with your thyroid or find out what else it may be.